The Destruction of the Notebooks

“Deletion is, ultimately, pointless.”

When I was younger, my favorite present of all was a blank journal—a simple notebook. It was like a whole world was open to me, one that I created. Unlimited freedom. The ultimate in being true to oneself.

It was diabolical, me and that notebook.


The moment I start taking into consideration what other people might think of my words, the focus collapses. Then it becomes a performance, a business transaction. I immediately ask myself: “What do they want?”

What will please them?

And it is then that I realize:

“Every instinct I have is wrong.”


I sometimes like to fool myself into thinking that my words within the notebook constitute some sort of dialogue with God. But I don’t think God really “reads” the notebook. Within the realm of my notebook, I am my very own God. It exists for itself. Self-generating, self-sustaining.

And the best way to maintain that high is to not open the notebook to others. The best thing to do is keep it private. Or, barring that, burning it.

“What good is writing if it can’t generate income?”


My cat, Thomas, is almost 15 years old. The grey in his fur looks washed-out, as if he was kept in the sun for too long. He sleeps a lot, even for a cat. I call him “my old man.”

Right now, Thomas, and the notebooks, hold the greatest continuity in my immediate life, the most history. He has watched all my grand schemes, seen me paint on the floor of my room, getting colors and glitter everywhere.

In my time, I’ve destroyed many notebooks. I started with the volumes I kept as a teenager, rescuing only portions of them, tearing through spiral volumes, pulling off the ragged edges. Two volumes destroyed using this method will fill up one plastic grocery bag.

“What good is writing if it can’t generate income?”

Have I regretted throwing away the notebooks? Wouldn’t they have been interesting documents to view in their entirety?

What sort of person seeks to read diaries?

History—it must be edited. Not added-to. There must be edits. Edit down your history and make a best-of compilation. Ignore all the weak cuts, the B-sides.

Thomas mostly sleeps nowadays.

“You’ve already said that.”

He still thinks he’s a kitten. When he dreams, his feet twitch, he thinks he is running, claws gliding across my wooden floor.

“Tommy, go get the ball! Go get the ball!”

He doesn’t realize what is happening to him, why his teeth are coming loose, why he has trouble pulling himself onto our bed, why his joints hurt.

If we go to another room, he thinks we have disappeared forever. Then he starts crying.

“Will somebody pick him up and bring him into the room with us?”


“The organ by which we transcend mere humanity is the human mind.”

I found this quote already-written within a stack of blank looseleaf paper. I have no idea when I wrote this. The stack of paper is about a year old, maximum. I thought it was all blank, unused.

I thumb through the rest of the pages warily, looking out for anything else. Aborted book reviews, aborted letters, aborted novels. Phone numbers.

I don’t believe that anymore, by the way. That the human mind is an organ. The brain is an organ. The brain is a tool. A filter. An all-in-one entertainment system. A joystick for the ghost-like mind.

A brain and a notebook are both temporary.

The notebooks were never meant to last forever. They were meant to be edited. Dissected. Boiled down. Organized by what might sell. Kill your darlings. Tell a good story. Underline the universals. Communicate.

“This is a great time to start over again,” a woman at the next table comments to her friends. “It’s a good time to pick up where you left off when you were the happiest in your life.”

Now we are back on the floor of my room, painting in the notebooks, color and glitter everywhere, my cat sitting to the side and cleaning himself. The little blue glass cup with the paint water fascinates him, and every once in a while he will sneak up and try to dip his paw in it. I use the same brush for everything.

In the back of my mind, as I paint, I think:

“This notebook has no commercial value.”


The dismantling of the notebooks have become part of the story. I sought to make them disappear, but I cannot destroy or obscure their absence. Their absence is a fact. There is no shredder sufficiently powerful, producing thin enough strips, to change this.

Most of the notebooks have gone to where the ghost-mind lives, where my cat is still a kitten and the seasons have been rolled back. The thoughts and ideas, once had, float out and expand into seeming nothingness, but still remain in a paperless universe. The past, the land of the dead, the “What If?” universes, every story splinter. Every aborted letter, every neglected and ignored draft on the Gmail. Deletion is, ultimately, pointless.

(written in 2010)